Italian flavors: Giffoni hazelnuts
- WTI Magazine #117 Jul 20, 2019
Fossilised pollen from around 2 million years ago, discovered during archaeological excavations, seem to demonstrate the presence of hazelnut kernels on the old continent since the Quaternary Period. They were used as a source of food as early as prehistoric times, when early man ate them by imitating rodents. In Campania there is evidence of the presence of hazelnuts from Roman times. Several paintings from Pompeii and Herculaneum depict these fruits, while charred hazelnuts originating from archaeological digs are still preserved at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
Campania therefore appears to be the Italian region with the oldest tradition of hazelnut cultivation. Moreover, the name ‘avellana’, introduced by the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, derives from an ancient city in Campania called Abella.
In the Middle Ages, hazelnut cultivation underwent a period of enormous development and considerable crop specialisation.
Trade in hazelnuts flourished In the seventeenth century, especially in markets in Egypt, the Barbary Coast and the Levant, demonstrating that even then products from Campania were recognised as superior in terms of their flavour and organoleptic properties. In the eighteenth century, the region of Giffoni was selected as an ideal place for cultivating this shrub, as it grows wild here, making it the natural home of the hazelnut.
Once shelled, the whole nut of this fruit gives an excellent yield, from 45% to 48% greater than other similar products, and this is one of the main reasons hazelnuts from Giffoni have been in great demand by the confectionary industries throughout Italy.
Tonda di Giffoni has rightfully become an important representative of Italian hazelnut production, and in 1997 it received European recognition as a product of Protected Geographic Indication.
The cultivar Tonda di Giffoni belongs to the genus Corylus avellana and is a shrubby plant with rounded, oval or obovate leaves, but it is generally deciduous.The fruit is dry and has a subspherical shape and its flesh is white, sweet and aromatic.
The shell is a fairly intense brown colour streaked with dark brown, and it weighs around 2.6 grams. Nocciola di Giffoni IGP is the world ambassador of its exemplary plant species, and for over a millennium it has established itself as a product of excellence from an area renowned for cultivation.
It is part of the best tradition of Mediterranean culture, with its ability to create a vital and fruitful relationship, fostering communication between peoples and cultures.
Both the fruit and the seed have a rounded shape. The flesh is white, firm and crunchy with a highly aromatic and particularly pleasant taste. The perisperm is thin and easy to remove. It has a consistent, medium size, which makes the fruit ideal for toasting and peeling.
The Local Area
Nocciola di Giffoni IGP is produced in a well defined part of the province of Salerno: Acerno, Baronissi, Calvanico, Castiglione del Genovesi, Fisciano, Giffoni Sei Casali, Giffoni Valle Piana, Montecorvino Pugliano, Montecorvino Rovella, Olevano Sul Tusciano, San Cipriano Picentino and San Mango Piemonte.
Providing shady shelter from the summer heat, the hazel groves of Tonda di Giffoni extend in ordered rows along the valleys and hills of Picentini.
In the period that immediately follows harvesting, during the natural sun drying phase, stunning views of peaceful expanses of hazelnuts interrupt the green hues of the lush local vegetation.
Master basket weavers, the custodians of an ancient tradition, weave the sturdy branches of this plant to create baskets, bases for demijohns, flasks, seats and other everyday objects.
Consorzio di Tutela Nocciola di Giffoni for MIPAAF